Always...Patsy Cline. Always...Patsy Cline is a light, mildly entertaining evening. You get an efficiently evocative set that's divided into three parts: a down-home apartment; an old-fashioned country bar, complete with jukebox; and, in the center, the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. There are two skilled singer-performers, one of them also a comic, working in front of a tight, professional group of musicians in cowboy hats. Bright, colored lights play over the scene, and audience participation -- clapping, whooping, singing along -- is encouraged, lubricated by beer, wine and martinis. This piece, adapted by Ted Swindley, is based on a real friendship between Patsy Cline and a fervent fan, Louise, but the singing is at the heart of the enterprise, and many of the songs are close to irresistible. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through March 5, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed December 16.
Gypsy. Gypsy is the story of the ultimate stage mother. Rose is determined to make her Baby June a star. The act she concocts, featuring June and the child's reluctant sister, Louise, is an agglomeration of bits and pieces from every dumb child act in vaudeville. As the years pass, Rose recycles the same songs and lyrics and attempts to disguise the children's increasing maturity. The songs -- music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim -- are clever, original, tuneful and sometimes touching. The production feels tight, and the casting is first-rate. Susan Dawn Carson makes the relationships among Rose, her longtime lover Herbie and the children genuinely loving, and the fact that you like the character means that her selfish actions surprise you and place her ugly narcissism in stark relief. Marcus Waterman gives Herbie a sad integrity. And the playhouse has actually found some child actors who are a pleasure to watch. A very enjoyable evening. Presented by Country Dinner Playhouse through January 30, 6875 South Clinton Street, Greenwood Village, 303-799-1410. Reviewed December 23.
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter whose reputation took flight in the 1950s and '60s. His songs influenced, among others, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Sting and Bob Dylan, and they have been sung by such diverse artists as Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. They're verbally and musically complex, sentimental and cynical, worldly wise and world-weary, celebratory, funny. Has anyone since Gilbert and Sullivan fit words and music together so cleverly? And has the world's seamy underside been so powerfully expressed in music since Brecht-Weill? The evening starts with "Marathon," a fast, infectiously rhythmic number that whirls us through the twentieth century, from the bathtub gin of the '20s to the Depression, from World War II to contemporary space travel. The lyrics evoke several of the evening's primary themes. Brel sings of the dark side of life, of greed, lust, rank smells, human perfidy and the sorrows of aging. But there is tenderness, redemption and giddy pleasure here as well. The musicians are first-rate. The four singers excel individually and harmonize well together. So put on your spats and your high-button shoes: This is everything cabaret should be. Presented by the Theatre Cafe in an open-ended run, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed November 25.
Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a sometimes ironic and sometimes respectful take on Ovid's work of the same name. The cast assembles around a granite pool -- a miracle of design and engineering at the Avenue Theater -- that can be anything from a backyard pool to the Greeks' dangerous wine-dark sea, a medium for death, birth, baptism and transformation. Actors act out the myths or narrate them, sometimes addressing the audience, sometimes each other. The gods they portray are pretty much like the rest of us, vain or large-spirited, compassionate or cruel. Zimmerman may deserve all the praise she's earned for Metamorphoses, but the most powerful scenes rely on the words of Ovid and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Still,Metamorphoses is a seductive combination of lighthearted pleasure and resonant, powerful theme. Presented by the Avenue Theater and extended through January 15, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 17.
Stop Kiss. Stop Kiss is about a slowly developing love affair between two women who don't, at first, know they're gay. Sara, an idealistic young teacher, has arrived in New York to take a job at an impoverished school in the Bronx. She comes to Callie's apartment because the latter has offered to take care of her cat, Caesar. As played by Hilary Blair and Elgin Kelley, both women are edgy and very charming, but the differences between the characters become more and more evident as the play progresses. So far, this is material for a gay -- though smarter and less narcissistic -- version of Sex and the City. But when the women finally kiss, on a quiet Greenwich Village street after a late-night visit to the White Horse Tavern, violence erupts. Sara is beaten into a coma; Callie is unable to protect her. This moment is the pivot around which author Diana Son has structured her entire play, but despite some harrowing scenes, Stop Kiss is at heart a comedy, held aloft by an irrepressible helium of warmth and good humor. Presented by Theatre Group through January 15 at the Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.org. Reviewed December 23.
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